A new level of shame was brought on the now ex- Queens Lancashire Regiment as it emerged that a sucessful prosecution for the torture and murder of Iraqi civillians had been thawted. Remember that this is the same regiment that smugly rejected the relatively minor accusations of abuse published by the Daily Mirror newspaper – while at the same time they were effectively covering up much more serious crimes. The failure of the investigation and court martial to convict anyone for the murder of Mr Musa is a bad day for the British army and another nail in the coffin of ‘hearts and minds’ in Basra.
Iraq abuse case ends with soldiers acquitted
By Kim Sengupta in The Independent
The most high-profile court martial over the Iraq war has ended with the acquittal of six British soldiers and accusations from the military over “politically motivated prosecutions”.
The case also led to the disclosure that the Army high command had sanctioned brutal abuse of prisoners and condemnation from the trial judge of a cover-up surrounding the killing of Baha Musa, an Iraqi prisoner. The six acquitted soldiers’ all of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, now the Duke of Lancaster Regiment ‘ had pleaded not guilty to charges linked to Mr Musa’s death.
Another defendant, Cpl Donald Payne, of the same regiment, who pleaded guilty to a war crimes charge when he admitted the inhumane treatment of persons, will be sentenced at a later date. But at the end of the trial which lasted 93 days and cost an estimated ’20m’ no one has been convicted over the killing of Mr Musa, a 26-year-old father of two who suffered 93 injuries including fractured ribs, a broken nose and kidney failure during his detention.
Yesterday, his father, Dawood, told The Independent: “What they have done in this case will cause a lot of anger in Basra… Everyone knows what happened to my son.”
There has also been anger in the military over this and other courts martial, which some claim have been driven by Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, whose legal advice paved the way for the Iraq War. Some believe the soldiers have been made scapegoats. But a spokesman for Lord Goldsmith denied he had made the decision to prosecute.
Outside the court yesterday at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire, Col David Black, a former commander of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, said: “It has been gravely disappointing that it took over three years for the judicial authorities… to decide to bring to trial a number of gallant young men… Why, and what cost to the public? These are questions to be addressed by the Attorney General, who made final decisions over the trial.”
Among those cleared was Col Jorge Mendonca, the commander of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment and the highest ranking officer charged over prisoner abuse, and three men under his command ‘ Sgt Kelvin Stacey, L/Cpl Wayne Crowcroft and Pte Darren Fallon ‘ after the court heard the mistreatment, in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, was approved by the Army hierarchy.
The military jury also found Major Michael Peebles, 35, and Warrant Officer Mark Davies, 37, both of the Intelligence Corps, not guilty of charges of negligently performing a duty.
Defending the decision to prosecute, Major General Howell, head of the Army Prosecuting Authority, said: “The APA was satisfied… that there was sufficient evidence to proceed and it was in the public interest.”
He “utterly refuted” suggestions of any political or military pressure.